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FairWild Foundation Receives 2023 ABC Steven Foster Botanical Conservation and Sustainability Award

AUSTIN, Texas (April 13, 2023) — The American Botanical Council (ABC) has presented its 2023 ABC Steven Foster Botanical Conservation and Sustainability Award to the FairWild Foundation, a Swiss nonprofit organization that, since 2008, has promoted the sustainable, traceable, and ethical trade of wild plant ingredients and products.

The ABC Steven Foster Award was created in 2022 and recognizes excellence in conservation and sustainability efforts related to medicinal and aromatic plants. It is named in honor of botanist, author, and photographer Steven Foster (1957–2022) and commemorates his many years of professional interest, writing, and advocacy work in this field.

Each year, the Foster Award recognizes an individual, nonprofit organization, or commercial herb company that is committed to sustainable and/or regenerative practices in the botanical industry or wider community. Recipients of this award take action to address botanical conservation and sustainability issues and contribute to a broader understanding of cultural and biological diversity, soil health, climate change, economic justice, and more. They also demonstrate appreciation for the beauty of the natural world.

Foster had more than 40 years of experience with sustainability and conservation of herbs and medicinal plants. He served on ABC’s Board of Trustees for more than two decades (including 10 years as chair), was a consultant and content contributor for ABC’s Sustainable Herbs Program (SHP), advocated for botanical industry trade resolutions to protect threatened botanicals, and was a founding member of the advisory board of the United Plant Savers (UpS), a nonprofit plant conservation organization, which was the inaugural recipient of the Foster Award in 2022.

“Steven Foster was an enormous figure in the herbal community, inspiring us all with the beauty he captured from medicinal plants and his interest in the people who harvest and work with those plants,” wrote Deborah Vorhies, CEO of the FairWild Foundation. “His reputation and legacy of knowledge and dedication live on, and to receive this prize in his name is an honour and an inspiration. At FairWild, we share Steven’s passion for botanicals. Like him, we believe that protecting wild plants and ensuring their future are also about respecting, honouring, and being fair to those who live alongside and collect those plants.

“At a higher level,” Vorhies added, “we know that humanity faces urgent and bigger problems, and we believe that a positive relationship between humanity and plants (through sustainable and respectful harvesting) provides a model of mutual nurturing, which can help us address these problems. FairWild is proud to be able to play a role in helping us be better stewards of planet Earth through our standard and certification process, ensuring a sustainable future for landscapes across the globe and for the more than 5,000 collectors who are paid, respected, and ensured decent working conditions through the FairWild Standard.”

The FairWild Standard is a rigorous, voluntary standard for the sustainable wild collection of medicinal and aromatic plants, gums and resins, fruits, nuts and seeds, and mushrooms. It applies a whole-ecosystem approach and includes relevant criteria for environmental, economic, and social sustainability.

The standard’s implementation supports sustainable production and trade, quality assurance, biodiversity conservation, and resilient rural economies, while rewarding wild-collection communities for acting as stewards of sensitive ecosystems. FairWild certification depends on annual onsite audits by accredited third-party bodies and means that buyers, from traders to consumers, can be confident that products are harvested legally, ethically, and sustainably.

Published in 2006, the FairWild Standard 1.0 was developed based on fair trade principles and the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO) standards and was intended to be implemented with other organic or ecological standards. In 2008, the FairWild Foundation was registered to promote sustainable, eco-friendly, and socially responsible use of habitats around the world. In 2010, the FairWild Standard 2.0, which drew from experiences and lessons learned from implementing the standard in the field, was published.

According to the FairWild Foundation, it has protected ecosystems across four continents and helped thousands of wild collectors, who are paid premiums that can be used to improve their quality of life. Now, more than 400 metric tons of FairWild-certified wild plant resources are traded globally every year, more than 25 wild plant species are FairWild-certified and sustainably sourced from more than 10 countries, and more than 35 companies are engaged with FairWild.

FairWild projects are protecting belleric myrobalan (Terminalia bellirica) and chebulic myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) trees in the Western Ghats of India, baobab (Adansonia digitata) trees in Zimbabwe, jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi), also called spikenard, in Nepal, and more. Because the FairWild Standard involves protecting entire resource areas, FairWild projects also conserve habitats of other, sometimes rare, plant and animal species.

Implementing the FairWild Standard and using its tools, like the resource assessment and management plan guidance, can also give stakeholders in the value network (also called the supply chain, including wild harvesters, processors/suppliers, and finished product brands) information that is useful for long-term planning, quality assurance/control, and supply chain risk mitigation.

Ann Armbrecht, PhD, director of SHP, wrote: “We applaud the FairWild Foundation’s work to consistently bring attention not only to the wild plants in international trade, but also to the wild harvesters whose livelihoods depend in part on continued access to markets for these wild-harvested plants.”

Josef Brinckmann, president of ABC’s Board of Trustees and former member of the FairWild Foundation’s Board of Trustees, endorsed the foundation for the award. “The foundation’s efforts to expand the global reach of its standard are critical, because demand for wild medicinal plants is increasing while areas of biodiversity (where the plants naturally occur) are rapidly decreasing,” he wrote. “This innovative standard recognizes the links between biodiversity conservation, the value of traditional ecological knowledge, fair compensation for sustainable resource management, rural livelihoods, and the ethical and social responsibilities of finished product brands that need access to wild plants for their products. The FairWild Foundation deserves recognition, and any brands that use wild plants should consider supporting the foundation in any way they can.”

The 2023 Foster Award was presented at the 18th annual ABC Celebration and Botanical Excellence Awards Ceremony on March 8, 2023, in Anaheim, California, during the annual Natural Products Expo West Conference and Trade Show. The ABC Celebration was generously underwritten by Alkemist Labs, Amin Talati Wasserman, Applied Food Sciences, Brassica Protection Products, Eurofins, Euromed, EuroPharma, Herb Pharm, Indena, MegaFood, Natural Factors, New Chapter, NOW Foods, RFI, RT Specialty, and the United Natural Products Alliance.